Mumbai, April 30
When the entire nation is gripped with COVID-19, a sword of damocles hangs over the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his multi-party government in Maharashtra, with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari remaining non-committal on nominating him to the legislative council.
Resultantly Thackeray, who could lose his post if he is not elected to the legislature by May 27, telephones Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to resolve the technical wrangle on Wednesday. He requested Modi to intervene since political impasse in the middle of Covid-19 outbreak would affect the state’s efforts to control the epidemic. Maharashtra has the highest number of Covid-19 cases among all states, top Shiv Sena leader said.
Thackeray, who is the Shiv Sena President, was sworn in on November 28, 2019, and, as per the Constitutional requirement, has to get elected as a member of Assembly or Council within six months. This deadline ends on May 28. He could have contested one of the 8 posts of the council (from MLA’s quota) which became vacant on 24 April 2020. However due to pandemic the elections to these seats were postponed by the Election Commission.
The term of the 10 appointees from the Governor’s quota is slated to expire on 6 June and 15 June. Additionally two seats are already vacant from the Governor’s quota. Besides, the four MLCs from the teachers and graduates constituencies are slated to retire on 19 July. It is clear that Thackeray cannot become an MLA or MLC by contesting elections at this stage and the only option is to become an MLC from Governor’s quota.
As such the state cabinet recommended Thackeray’s nomination for one of the two vacant seats from the Governor’s quota and communicated it to him on 9 April. Since there was no response for over 20 days, a delegation of Maharashtra Vikas Aghad (MVA) ministers called on the Governor on Tuesday (28 April) and urged him to nominate Thackeray. The Governor apparently communicated the delegation that he would consult the centre over the issue.
The Shiv Sena’s strategy is to get Thackeray into the Upper House through Governor’s quota – and once the lockdown is lifted and ask for the Council polls (that were due in April) and get elected to him to one of the Council seats.
If the Governor refuses, the Shiv Sena is ready to move court. The other option is that Thackeray resigns by 28 May and get sworn in again as Chief Minister. This has to be a smooth 24-hour operation, since Opposition BJP will leave no stones unturned to topple the government.
As per Article 164 (4) of the Constitution, a minister, who is not a member of either Houses, will cease to be a minister, on expiry of six months. However, there are various interpretation and judgements on the article. The MVA does not want to take chances of legal wrangles and Constitutional crisis. Precedents and norms say that the usually the Governor goes with the decision of the cabinet.
In a related development smaller constituents of the MVA Government on Wednesday submitted a memorandum to the Governor and communicated that , “The state is fighting COVID-19 and the government and the administration is working round-the-clock. The situation is aggravating day by day. At this stage the political and constitutional uncertainty has to be removed. As such the governor should nominate Thackeray to the council. The signatories to the memorandum included : Jayant Patil, Raju Korde (PWP), Sharad Patil, B G Kolse Patil, Pratap Hogade, Prabhakar Narkar (JD(S), Raju Shetti ( Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana), and Shyam Gaikwad(RPI-S).
The delay in nominating Thackeray to the council has created anxiety in the Maha Vikas Aghadi, that comprises the Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar-led NCP and Congress. MVA leaders have accused the BJP of misusing the Governor’s houses for political gains and attempting to bring in President’s rule in the state.